Dental Tips Blog


4 Reasons Why Dental X-Rays are a Necessity

Posted in Digital X-Rays

Dental x-rays have a bad reputation as being something that is necessary or even harmful to your health. In reality, digital x-rays are one of the safest procedures performed in our office – with radiation levels being less than those you get out in the sun or flying in an airplane. They play an important part of your dental care experience. Here’s why:

With dental x-rays, your dentist can:

Examine bone height between the teeth.

Gum disease causes bone loss, tooth mobility, and ultimately tooth loss. Seeing the levels of the bone margins can give your dentist the chance to take proactive measures that prevent bone loss or improve the chance to develop new bone before complex problems develop. 

Screen for tooth decay.

Yes your dentist does check for cavities during your exam, but some types of cavities are not visible during an example. For instance, cavities between the teeth, new decay around existing restorations, or those that have may have developed through deep pits in the top of the tooth. 

Evaluate the eruption patterns of other teeth.

Being able to assess the development of unerupted teeth is important when evaluating wisdom teeth or young children. Early diagnosis provides you with more liberty to take proactive measures that can impact the smile a few years down the road. 

Screen for cysts, tumors and infections.

In the rare chance that a tumor or severe infection develops, an x-ray won’t just save your smile – it can also save your life!

X-rays give your dentist to see through teeth and gum tissues to address underlying problems that may not be evident right away. Ask your dentist which type of x-rays you need and how often.

Posted on behalf of:
Alan Horlick DDS
6572 Hwy 92 #120
Acworth, GA 30102
(770) 591-8446


How Often Should X-Rays Be Taken?

Sometimes it can seem a bit confusing as to whether or not you’re due for dental x-rays. Didn’t you just have one taken at the last appointment? What about that full set they did 5 years ago? Why won’t the large x-ray show what is on the tooth that is hurting you? All of this may seem to not make much sense, and can leave dental patients puzzled about how often routine dental x-rays actually need to be taken.

Routine bitewing x-rays are typically taken once a year. For some patients, your dentist may feel that you are predisposed to a higher rate of dental disease and request that they are taken twice a year instead. These 4 radiographs show a detailed view of the bone levels between the teeth as well as the health of tooth enamel in areas that are prone to decay.

Periapical x-rays are typically taken only if there is a specific concern, or if you are having a complex procedure performed. This type of x-ray views the entire length of the root as well as the bone around it. Most periapical films are taken at the time of treatment or during an emergency exam.

Full Mouth X-Ray sets (FMX) are a combination of periapical and bitewing x-rays, totaling about 20 films throughout the entire mouth. These sets of x-rays are usually taken at the first adult appointment or once every 3-5 years for a comprehensive screening and examination of the oral anatomy.

Panoramic x-rays show the jawbones, wisdom teeth and other cranial structures such as the sinuses. Pano films are usually taken every 3-5 years, or for specific consultations regarding orthodontic needs, wisdom tooth development, and dental implant therapy.


When Are Dental X-Rays Needed?

It’s not uncommon to hear dental patients ask about x-rays when they visit the office. Most people wonder when they are needed, especially if they come back to the treatment area to have new ones done, but remember having an x-ray taken at the last visit. To better explain when dental x-rays are needed, it’s important to let the patient know about the different types of x-rays and what they are used for:

Bitewing X-rays

Bitewing x-rays are 2 films for children and 4 films for adults. Bitewings are needed usually every 12 months for your dentist to screen for developing tooth decay between your back teeth. Bitewings can also screen for bone loss.

Periapical X-rays

Periapical films show the entire length of the tooth, from crown to below the root. Periapicals are used to check for trauma, abscess, bone loss, infection, root canal treatment or other evaluation of the root area. Periapical films are taken as needed, usually for limited exams of specific treatments to specific teeth at the time of the appointment.

Full Mouth Series X-rays (FMX)

An FMX is usually taken once every 3-5 years and is a combination of bitewing x-rays and periapical films. An FMX is most often taken at your first dental appointment for your dentist to perform a fully comprehensive examination.

Occlusal X-rays

Occlusal films are taken on small children to evaluate the eruption of their anterior teeth.

Panoramic X-rays

Panos are usually taken every 3-5 years to evaluate tooth eruption, jawbone, anatomy, pathology or wisdom tooth problems.

X-ray frequency can also be adjusted based on your dental history. Some people need to be monitored more closely due to weak teeth or older restorations, while other people with perfect teeth may need films taken less frequently.

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